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Ute Indian Tribe wants Herbert to explain Cuch's firing

SALT LAKE CITY — The Ute Indian Tribe is demanding an explanation for last week's firing of State Division of Indian Affairs Director Forrest Cuch.

In a letter sent Monday to Gov. Gary Herbert, the tribe has requested to meet with Herbert during the upcoming Utah Tribal Leaders meeting slated for March 23. The Utes are also upset Herbert fired Cuch without consulting the tribes in Utah.

Last Thursday, Herbert spokeswoman Ally Isom wouldn't say why Cuch was let go from the position he held since 1997, saying it was a personnel matter.

"The governor has decided to take the Division of Indian Affairs in a different direction," Isom said Thursday.

That comment was concerning to the tribe, which believes the comment could mean Herbert's abandoning a policy to protect and promote tribal interests, according to a news release announcing the letter.

"We will not support this," said Richard Jenks Jr., Ute Tribal Business Committee chairman.

In an e-mail to friends Friday and in an interview, Cuch said no reason was given for his dismissal. He speculated on possible sources of friction but could not pinpoint the reason for his dismissal.

"It was a big-time shock. I was traumatized," Cuch said. "I never thought I would be treated this way for 13 and a half years of service. I did some good work for the state, and I didn't deserve to be treated this way."

Cuch, a member of the Ute Indian Tribe, has been integral in promoting a positive working relationship between the Tribes in Utah and the state, the news release states.

— Spencer Garn